April 6, 2015.
Daily Reading: Exodus 1-4.
Background: Genesis 48-50. Exodus is the second book in the Pentateuch, detailing much of the leadership of Moses and the exodus (thus the name of the book) of the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage and their history thereafter. It picks up right where the book of Genesis leaves off, or at least a few generations afterwards, as the children of Israel have multiplied and grown to be a fairly large people in the land of Egypt, where Joseph had brought them to live during the years of the famine. Now that Joseph and his brothers have all passed, there is a new Pharaoh that has risen up that does not know Joseph or what he did for the land of Egypt, and fearing that Israel would grow powerful and connect with Egyptian enemies, he begins to heavily oppress Israel. It is this story of oppression, God’s powerful hand that would deliver Israel and their disobedience in the wilderness that will be covered in the book of Exodus.
Concepts and Connections.
God’s hand is with His people: Picking up where Genesis left off, we find that the opening of Exodus tells about Jacob and his son’s move to the land of Egypt after they had been reunited with Joseph, their brother whom the twelve sons of Jacob had sold into captivity. The hand of the Lord was indeed with His people, the children of Israel (Jacob’s new name), and they had increased greatly after just a few generations. However, in just these few years, there arose a new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph and all that he had done for the land of Egypt (see Genesis 41), and he feared the growing number of the children of Israel because he thought they might turn against Egypt in conjunction with Egypt’s enemies and overtake the land. This is an example of how in time, most everyone (no matter how great they were) is forgotten (see Ecclesiastes 2:15-17). Thus, the new Pharaoh begins to heavily oppress Israel, making them to do forced labor and even instructing the midwives not to let any of the male children born of Israel live. Nevertheless, the hand of the Lord was with His people, and the more Pharaoh oppressed Israel, the more Israel multiplied and spread abroad. There is a recurrence of the theme throughout history that whenever the people of God are oppressed, they actually multiple and spread greatly. Just as the people of Israel did here, so does the church in most cases of heavy oppression. Eventually, when Pharaoh was unsuccessful in getting the midwives to kill the male children born of Israel (for the midwives feared God), he stepped up his tactics and gave the Egyptians a decree to kill all the male children that were born in Israel, not just the midwives. Pharaoh would later find out that he was fighting a losing battle.
God’s providence and oversight: The story of the early life of Moses is yet another good lesson in the providence of God. We have just seen that Pharaoh has issued to the land that all the male children that were born to Israel were to be put to death. However, the mother and father of Moses, Levites, had faith to hide their son from Pharaoh, and entrust him to God. They are commended for their faith in Hebrews 11:23. God worked it out to where Moses was found by one of Pharaoh’s daughters, who took him as her own after he had been weaned by his very own mother thanks to his sister’s clever thinking. Moses, the man that God would use to deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, was able to grow up in Pharaoh’s house! The irony here is amazing. Moses grew up and reached a time in his life where he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter (see Hebrews 11:24-26) when he saw the oppression and burdens placed on his people. After killing an Egyptian that was beating one of his people, he finds out that people know and he flees to the land of Midian, where he delivers some of the women who came to draw water out of the hands of the shepherds, and eventually ends up marrying into their family and working for his father-in-law Jethro in the land of Midian. During this time, God heard the cries of His people, and knew their oppression. He had a plan in the works.
The great ‘I AM’: The story of Moses and the burning bush is very interesting in relation to the revelation that God makes of Himself to Moses. Moses, seeing a burning bush that was not consumed, was intrigued by its presence and decided to investigate, not knowing the life changing event he was walking into. God spoke to him from the bush, told him he was standing on holy ground and revealed His plan to deliver the children of Israel from the hand of Pharaoh. And Moses was to be the head! After hearing the plan of God and not feeling adequate to carry out the mission, Moses asks a question that prompts one of the most profound statements in the bible. When he asks who he should say sent him, God replies “I AM WHO I AM.” “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Notice the different font that is used in many bibles. This is because the name that God reveals here is the name that the chidlren of Israel held in the highest of honor, for it was the actual name that God calls Himself. YHWH, referred to as the tetragrammaton, is closely associated with the verb ‘to be.’ God’s name is literally “is.” Because He is. This is a fundamental truth, and there is such beauty in its simplicity. The Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, from whom came the children of Israel, was the one and only God, Creator of the universe. And He had heard the cries of His people. It was time to implement His plan of redemption.
1. God did not accept ‘no’ for an answer: Moses was certainly not very receptive of the idea that it was he that God had chosen to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. To be fair, Moses had grown up in the household of Pharaoh, seeing what goes on behind the scenes and then running as a fugitive after killing an Egyptian. There was likely great fear from his experience. Thus, he starts to make excuses, but each excuse was met with an answer from God. In the previous chapter he asks, “well, who would I say sent me?” God answers, “I AM.” At the beginning of this chapter, Moses says “But the people will not believe me!” God gives him miraculous signs to prove he was sent from the great I AM. Then Moses tries to get out of it by commenting on his lack of eloquence in speech, and at this time the anger of the Lord is kindled against him, because it was He who formed his mouth! God was trying to use Moses, to work through Moses, and Moses was missing the point. It didn’t matter what talent, or lack thereof, that Moses had. It was God who was going to do the work, and He would not fail. It was almost an insult for Moses to say he wasn’t good enough to deliver the people. But the Lord even had an answer for this- he sent Aaron, the brother of Moses, with Moses to be the mouthpiece to the people. God was not going to take ‘no’ for an answer, and Moses would go on to be one of the most well known characters in biblical history because of it. This should be a story of inspiration to us, especially if we don’t think we are good enough for God to use us. God will use us, if we allow Him to, to do great things. We can be instrumental in the kingdom, even if we are not the most well known or on the front lines. Everyone has a part to play, and God does not like to take ‘no’ for an answer. Are you ready to answer His call?
2. The journey begins: After all the excuses had been made mute, Moses sets off with his family and with Aaron to begin their journey back to the land of Egypt, where they would gather the people and lead them away, but not without opposition from Pharaoh. God had already told Moses that Pharaoh would not allow the people to go until the death of his first born son, but He was still going to give him a chance. Along the way, it seems that the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses because he had not circumcised his son, though it is somewhat unclear if this is the reason. Regardless, his wife quickly circumcises their son and abates the anger of the Lord. Moses tells Aaron all that the Lord had said to him, and when they gathered the children of Israel, Aaron relayed the message to them as Moses showed them the signs he had been given by God. All the people believed and bowed their head in worship, as they had seen that their prayers and cries for help had been heard by their God. This was a good start to what would prove to be a very bumpy road.
Tomorrow’s Reading: I Samuel 16-20.
To God be the glory.